Hamas officials remained defiant Thursday despite the assassination of three of the organization’s top commanders in a pre-dawn strike.
“The Palestinian people have prepared themselves for hundreds of years to fight the enemy until the end,” Hamas political chief Khaled Mashaal said in an interview with the Turkish news agency Anadul. “We won’t get tired of fighting after a month, a year or many years.”
“There will be no return to negotiations in Cairo before we have ensured favorable circumstances that will force the enemy to meet the demands of the Palestinians.”
Mashaal said that the Palestinians’ top demand was the lifting of the blockade on Gaza.
The Qatar-based Hamas leader went on to compare Israel’s actions in Gaza to the Holocaust. “What Israel has done in the Gaza Strip over he last 45 days is a genuine holocaust,” he said. “They are killing children, destroying residential areas, mosques, hospitals and UNRWA-run schools… Israel is replicating what Hitler did years ago.”
Mashaal has used similar language in the past. In 2008 Mashaal said, “Israel wants to exaggerate the Holocaust and make from it a tragedy such that no other can have their own tragedy.”
Directly addressing the loss of three of its top members, spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri added Thursday that the “loss is a serious Israeli crime that will not succeed in breaking the will of our people or weakening the resistance. Israel will pay a price.”
Despite Mashaal’s insistence that Hamas is not ready to negotiate, he was still scheduled to meet with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, Palestinian sources told Israeli news source Ynet. Abbas traveled to Qatar Thursday to meet with the Qatari emir on attempts to reach a negotiated ceasefire.
After Qatar, Abbas will head to Cairo, where negotiations were taking place until fighting resumed Tuesday, to meet with Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El-Sissi.
Israel killed Hamas southern command head Muhammad Abu Shamaleh, Rafah commander Raed al-Attar and senior member Mohammed Barhoum.
The Shin Bet said that Abu Shamaleh and al-Attar were both directly involved in the 2006 kidnapping of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, who was later released in exchange for over 1,000 Palestinian prisoners. One of those prisoners is said to have taken part in the kidnapping of three Israeli teens by a West Bank Hamas cell.
Thursday morning’s blow to Hamas’s military leadership marked at least the second high-level assassination attempt by Israel since ceasefire negotiations in Cairo broke down on Tuesday.
Israel was said to have dropped several bunker buster bombs on Hamas’ top military commander Muhammad Deif’s residence early Wednesday in an apparent assassination attempt that killed five people, including Deif’s wife and baby son. Hamas maintained that Deif was not at home during the attack, and survived the attack. However, Israeli intelligence sources told Fox News Wednesday that the Hamas leader was believed to have been killed.